Use positive words when writing

A Canadian dollar coin is a Loonie, because it pictures the loon. A Canadian 2-dollar coin is a Toonie.

A Canadian dollar coin is a Loonie, because it pictures the loon. A Canadian 2-dollar coin is a Toonie.


Set a positive tone by writing positive words.

Choose positive words to soften messages. Write positive to words to make you or your organization seem friendly and interested.

Imagine yourself as a reader. What would you like to read? Set the tone for what you write by using positive expressions.

Positive words          
appreciate   benefit   capable   commendable   cooperation   efficiency excellent   please   reliable   sincerity   thanks   thoughtful

Negative words
blame   carelessness   complain   decline   disappointment   doubtful   fail   failure   impossible   neglect   unfair   vague   wrong


These negative sentences might annoy readers or damage the relationship between you and your readers. Try to revise them so they sound friendlier.

1. We must have a copy of your specifications by October 15 or we will be unable to deliver the product on time, the date we firmly agreed on last month.

2. You must sign the contract on the dotted line and return one copy to us within seven days.

3. We are unable to assure that equipment because you failed to enclosed precise specifications, including the serial number, and the original sales receipt.

Life is short. Make sentences short, too.

chichen itza sign

Over a recent 492-word article in Parade magazine, the title called actor Al Pacino “A man of words and letters.”

The article concerns Pacino’s movie Danny Collins, in which the title character receives a letter decades after its mailing.

The article writer may be a man of words and letters, too — but he definitely uses too many words — 62 — in a single sentence. And that sentence concerns brevity. See if you can read it in a single breath. And please tell me if you understand it.

Keeping up with his children (14-year-old twins Anton and Olivia, with whom he shares custody with actress Beverly D’Angelo, and 25-year-old Julie) requires both commuting and communicating with a 21st-century method that this man of words has found he now prefers to letters, something that has morphed his love of lengthy sentences and long, flowing responses into something much shorter and snappier.

Live your life long and keep your sentences short. To paraphrase an expert: Convert your lengthy [why not just long?] sentences into something shorter and snappier.

Ungrammatically speaking

Q. When you read ungrammatical sentences, do you judge the source?
A. Answers from a host of people.

If you read a website with sloppy writing or outright mistakes, does it matter? Do you forgive errors and pay attention only to the message? (I posted this question on LinkedIn.)

  • One problem with mistakes is that they confuse the message. Yes, I give lots of leeway. Deliberate mistakes, the use of texting abbreviations, and affectations like writing everything in lower case anger me.
  • I tend to be unforgiving about outright mistakes.
  • Websites are merely newer conduits to disseminate information. Why should the novelty of the medium encourage us to discard well-established, useful and sensible norms?
  • If website owners aren’t professional writers, they can hire professional writers. Poor copy has no place on a website.
  • Put it this way: If a car manufacturer released a car with a defective manual that led to fatalities, would you forgive the manufacturers because they’re not writing specialists? No. If you visit a medical office and the plants in the waiting room are dead or dying, would you want those doctors to treat you even though they’re not gardeners? Probably not.
  • I view grammar as an important indicator of the intelligence of a writer. An occasional mistake is acceptable, but when the mistakes are significant in number, my confidence in the writer diminishes.
  • If companies can’t even get their websites (their shop-windows to the world) sorted out, what else are they doing badly?
  • I shy away from that individual and his/her site. I hesitate to accept positive posts to my blog that are poorly worded and full of errors. I just read a leadership book and nearly gave up on it because of poor editing. Instead, I got out my red pen and started making notes. I’m not sure if I will go back to the author with the edits, but it was the only way I could make it through the book.
  • I stop reading after a few sentences if the sloppiness continues.
  • I consider the source; it’s almost like I can’t help myself, but judge, in the sense of being judgemental—I’m much less inclined to do this than in my earlier years. (This is a verbatim, spelled-his-way response from a professional writer.)
  • I judge the source as lazy. He or she has not taken the time to check the work or have someone else check it. I can’t “pay attention only to the message” because I judge the messenger as sloppy.
  • Yes, it matters how you say it. And even if I forgive the errors, I still judge the source, because I have a writerly pedantic streak. Ungrammatical sentences and mistakes undermine your offer because they looks unprofessional. Sloppy errors are off-putting.
  • While the message should prevail, the person delivering it should also have enough respect for it to give it the quality of writing it deserves.

Cliches: A sorry, sorry list

not your typical

Avoid clichés like the plague. Write only phrases that you create.

accidents will happen
add insult to injury
after all is said and done
all tuckered out
at death’s door
bated breath
beyond a shadow of a doubt
bit off more than I can chew
blow his stack
break the ice
budding genius
bury the hatchet
busy as a bee
by the sweat of one’s brow
calm before the storm
chew the fat
clouds of dust
come on the scene
cried her eyes out
depths of despair
diamond in the rough
died a thousand deaths
discreet silence
dying of thirst
each and every
eagle eye
easier said than done
eternal triangle
fair and square
Father Time
few and far between
fond parents
frozen to the spot
gala occasion
greased lightning
green with envy
grinning from ear to ear
heart skipped a beat
in no uncertain terms
in record time
in this day and age
jumped out of my skin
last but not least
laughed my head off
like the back of her hand
long arm of the law
melt away
Mother Earth
my lips are sealed
none the worse for wear
not a second too soon
on cloud nine
on speaking terms
once in a lifetime
one in a million
piled a mile high
pins and needles
pulling my leg
raining cats and dogs
sadder but wiser
sealed his fate
sigh of relief
silence reigned
spur of the moment
straight and narrow
supreme sacrifice
sweat bullets
to the bitter end
took forever
trials and tribulations
view with alarm
weary bones
weigh a ton
white as a sheet
with all his might
word to the wise
writing on the wall

To make a long story short, a good time was had by all. Eliminate cliches from your text.

Do not feel free

At the end of your e-mail, you write: If you have any questions feel free to contact me.

May I edit, please?

  • Insert a comma after the word questions.
  • Write Please contact me.
  • Do not suggest that people feel free. They do or they don’t.

If you have questions, please post them here or contact me.